Here is my corner of the internet for random commentary, writing projects, and stories of my life. Some posts may have aged better than others, but allowing myself room to change and grow is important to my authenticity.
I originally wrote this in January, days after the attack on the Capitol. Only small edits have been made since my original draft. Had you predicted in January 2017 exactly what would happen during Trump’s first term in office, I surely wouldn’t have believed you. To be fair, I’m generally skeptical of predictions, no matter who they come from. I’m convinced the only predictions to come true are overly broad. But I digress.
I’ve been aware of the QAnon movement probably only slightly more than the average American for the past couple of years. I have individuals close to me who may not identify with the movement or even know about the anonymous individual “Q” but are definitely influenced by and believe many, if not all, the conspiracy theories rooted in the movement. With the attacks on the Capitol building this past Wednesday, it became apparent which of those individuals believe the 2020 election was rigged and fradualent (it wasn’t).
10 years ago, January of 2009, I was a rebelious Mormon teen and wanted proof of it. So I got a small tattoo of a triplet note on my ankle. It took the artist all of 7 minutes to do and cost me $50. I had to take a cash advance on my credit card to pay him, and even then, could only withdraw $40. At the time, I was a wannabe rock star who was sure I was going to move to Phoenix, become an audio engineer, then move to LA to network while working shows and eventually I’d make it big.
I once had a bishop who told me that if I read a chapter of the Book of Mormon everyday I would never leave the Church. I agreed with it at the time, which isn’t the case now. But I can’t necessarily argue against it, because I sure as hell didn’t read the Book of Mormon every day, so I’m simply a validation of the sentiment. I’m sure TBMs reading agree and also feel validated.
In chapter 7 I addressed the schedule for church every Sunday. On top of those three hours, Mormons typically have activities throughout the week, especially for the teenagers. Every week, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, all the youth will go to the church for what is called Mutual. I’m not exactly sure why they call it that, and I actually think they may have discontinued that name, but that’s what I grew up calling it and that’s is how I’ll refer to it in this chapter.
This chapter is one that I have looked forward to writing. It is a topic that affected so much of my life and brought so much shame and guilt. Not to mention, I personally think it is one of the most dominating and invasive parts of Mormon culture, especially in Utah, and more specifically Utah County where I was raised. Because of the dominating population of Mormons, there is a social peer pressure to keep all the standards perfectly and everyone knew if someone didn’t.
Those that follow me may know that I was raised Mormon but no longer practice in the religion. As such, I participate in quite a few online forums with other people in various places of the Mormon spectrum. In these forums, private text messages or social media posts from believing and orthodox family or friends are often shared as a way to vent frustration. Most of these forums that I participate in are private, but a few are public.
In chapter 2 I mentioned some differences between the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. To recap and give some additional context: the Aaronic Priesthood is given to young men at the age of 12 and the Melchizedek Priesthood is given to men at the age of 18. When you receive the priesthood you are assigned to your respective office. As previously stated, Deacon, Teacher, and Priest are the most common offices in the Aaronic Priesthood and are dictated by your age.
Mormons attend three hours of Church every Sunday. It generally consists of three, hour-long meetings that typically occur in the following order: Sacrament meeting Here they take the sacrament as talked about in previous chapters. After the sacrament, talks and sermons are given from leaders and various members of the ward. It is often a dreaded assignment to speak in sacrament meeting. Sunday school Here everyone goes to their assigned class to learn about the gospel and church doctrine on various subjects.
Privacy P. Pratt is a pseudonym which I assumed in October of 2016 to mask my involvement with the non-profit, pro-transparency media organization called MormonLeaks.1 The name comes from Parley P. Pratt one of the early leaders of the Mormon Church. As Privacy P. Pratt, I have handled the technical operations of MormonLeaks, as well as participated in the executive and administrative operations. I am here to address my anonymity and why I have decided to reveal my involvement now.
As I explained in chapter 5, the young men’s duties concerning the sacrament change as they get older. Once you turn 14 you are no longer a Deacon and become a Teacher. The Teachers are responsible for preparing the sacrament. This entails several of them arriving about 30 minutes or so before church, placing dozens of little plastic or paper cups into trays, filling them each with water, dividing a loaf of bread between several other trays, placing both the water and the bread trays on the sacrament table, and covering them all with a white clothe.
Many of my friends, family, and colleagues, if asked, will report that I associate myself with the libertarian political philosophy. They’d probably feel comfortable saying that I support the likes of Ron Paul, Justin Amash, and Gary Johnson. What they probably don’t know is that my Libertarian cred is even higher with my subscription to Reason magazine. But I have recently found myself slightly disaffected with the Libertarian party. Some of it is personal philosophy changes, some of it is recent events, and some of it is just misalignments that have always existed that I never saw.
Like baptism, I never would have dreamed of not receiving the priesthood once I turned 12. It was just what you did and I was quite excited for it. As a little, aspiring priesthood holder, you come revere the 12 and 13 year old Deacons who pass the sacrament every Sunday. In my childish imagination, they almost seemed like Army soldiers marching up and down the aisles, handing the first person in every pew the trays of bread and water, strictly staring straight ahead waiting for the tray to be returned to them, taking it back and continuing in their assigned route until the entire congregation had partaken.
Rituals such as the sacrament, baptism, and going to the temple are very important in the life of a Mormon. But before any of these things can happen, one needs to pass a what is often referred to as a worthiness interview. These interviews are conducted by the bishop and he asks you a series of questions to gauge your worthiness to perform these things. The interview typically takes place in the office of the bishop in the church where one attends every week.
I have fond memories of attending BYU football games during elementary school years. My Dad had season tickets from the time I was seven or so and I loved going to the games with my parents. Occasionally I got to bring a friend and we’d think we were on top of the world watching the Cougars play at home. I remember when I was around the age of seven, there was an auction in my ward.
There are several major ages in the Church in which important rituals and practices are performed. The first being at eight, as I discussed in chapter one, for baptism. The next one is at 12, significant for all Mormons, but especially for the boys. It is when a young man receives what is called the Aaronic Priesthood. Now the Priesthood is a historically controversial topic for the Church. Joseph Smith claims to have received two priesthoods.
As I said in the introduction, I remember growing up always thinking to myself how “blessed” I was to have been born into a Mormon family. And not just any Mormon family, but one in Utah of all places! When reflected upon, the odds are quite staggering. There were approximately 5.2 billion people in the world. 7.7 million of them were Mormon, about 0.15% of the world’s population. Not to mention the even smaller percentage of those Mormons specifically in Utah.
This is a series specifically written for what we in the ex-Mormon community call the nevermo — someone who never has been baptized into the Mormon Church. Since leaving the Church, I have found that nevermos typically know very little about Mormon culture and tend to be fascinated by it. That is not to say that others will not enjoy reading the series as well. I suspect that many exmos — ex-Mormons — will enjoy reading of my experiences.
I’ve already written a bit about how Ryan McKnight and myself came in contact, and how MormonLeaks, as it is known today, came to be. In this post, I hope to provide a little more context. I knew in order to get credibility, MormonLeaks was going to have to set up their submission process correctly in a way they could guarantee the anonymity of their sources. I felt confident in my ability to do this, so I reached out to McKnight via Reddit with this message:
Last week, Mike Norton, also known as NewNameNoah, released a video of 12 year old Savannah speaking in front of her Mormon congregation claiming that God loves her even though she is a lesbian and that he “did not mess up” by making her that way. After expressing these beautiful sentiments, the microphone was turned off and she was asked to sit down by the leaders of the congregation sitting behind her.
Dear Senator Paul, I write this letter at risk of coming across as an over-the-top, idealistic fanboy of yours. I did not love your endorsement of Mitt Romney in 2012, but I was willing to look past it. You really won my support with your 13 hour filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan in 2013, opposing the use of drones against American citizens. Then even more so when you fought, right up until just before the vote, against sending aid to the Egyptian coup later that year (I watched it live).
A couple of years back, I deleted my Facebook account. I first got it in 2006 before many of my friends and family ever did. I loved Facebook. But as time went on it slowly became more and more of a waste of time. If my feed did not show what someone was eating or a click bait title, it was an opinionated and scathing flame war of comments. As Facebook culture started to grow into what it is now, I would participate in all these activities and many times I was the immature, generalizing, and heated friend stuck in his preconceived notions that you always rolled your eyes at.
On January 13, 2017 Infants on Thrones released an interview with myself and Ryan McKnight, which you can find and listen to here. In this interview, when talking about WikiLeaks and responding to comparisons between them and MormonLeaks, I said at about 36:15 “WikiLeaks is dealing with information that is putting peoples' lives in danger”. What I wish I would have said is that WikiLeaks deals with information that could potentially put peoples' lives in danger.
Recently an article entitled The Alarming Truth Behind Anti-Mormonism has made it’s way around the bloggernacle. It’s packed with jewel phrases such as “It is simply impossible to leave the Restored Gospel for another version of Christianity…” and “…most Atheists are unaware of where their belief system will lead society” (the author provides no data to support either claim). But I think the damage that is done by such an article be plainly seen in its title in the words “Anti-Mormonism”.
The Back Story I am not the master mind behind MormonWikiLeaks. In fact, the idea was very far from being original. When the “November Policy” was made public by means of a leak, thousands began resigning in realization that they weren’t as privy to their religion’s policies and decisions as they had thought. Many leaks followed. Most weren’t incredibly noteworthy, but a few people began promoting themselves as a safe destination for leaked Mormon policy.
BSidesLV 2016 and Def Con 24 comprised my first experience of “Hacker Summer Camp”. I’ve now been working in information security for four years, have attended a handful of conferences, and have spoken at a number of both conferences and meetups. I personally feel that I have a good handle and understanding of the culture of the industry and mostly went into the week knowing what to expect. There were some great things and some not so great things.
Sean Cassidy, in a recent blog post explained the workings of LostPass, a phishing framework specifically targeting the popular password manager LastPass. In it, he perfectly articulated an idea that has been bouncing around my mind for a couple of months: The standard refrain is that we need better user training. That is simply not good enough. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. We can train them about best practices and cyber threats until we cannot talk, but they will still mess up and the bad guys will still find a way!
This article was originally posted on nullsecure.org and has been republished with permission. I’ve been pretty busy lately with updating Tango to version 2.0 and working on threatnote, but, another project I started on recently was something @__eth0 and I are calling Gavel. Gavel is a set of Maltego transforms that query traffic records in each state. This project started out really ambitiously and we wanted to cover all 50 states, however, we ran into several problems.
This article was originally posted on nullsecure.org and has been republished with permission. I’ve been pretty busy lately with updating Tango to version 2.0 and working on threatnote, but, another project I started on recently was something @egd_io and I are calling Gavel. Gavel is a set of Maltego transforms that query traffic records in each state. This project started out really ambitiously and we wanted to cover all 50 states, however, we ran into several problems.